There've been considerable advances in mobile homes over the past couple of decades, but public perceptions are often based on the mobile homes of the '80s. Case in point are jokes such as this: Definition of a mobile home: Your house moves, but your 12 cars don't.
The reality is that mobile homes have seen advances over the years, but what people think about them impacts their value and popularity. That could be changing, though, as some signs point to an improved perception.
Mobile, manufactured, and modular: What's the difference?
Before we get into what's new about mobile homes and public perception, let's define what we're talking about, as the terms "mobile," "manufactured," and "modular" homes tend to get lumped into the same category.
Mobile homes, also called trailers, are attached to a chassis, and people can move them from place to place. They can be taken off the chassis and moved to a permanent foundation if the owner likes. They're typically small, referred to as single-wide homes, and run 500 to 1,200 square feet, with one or two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms.
"Manufactured" is the newer term for a mobile home. Like a mobile home, a manufactured home is built off-site in a factory and put on a chassis. The difference is that this type of home must now adhere to standards from the HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Program.
These homes can be single-, double-, or triple-wide. Double-wide homes are typically 1,000 to 2,200 square feet, with two or three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and triple-wide homes are over 2,000 square feet with three or more bedrooms and two or more bathrooms.
Modular homes are built in a factory off-site like mobile and manufactured homes, but the sections are brought to a home site and are put on a permanent foundation.
The name change from mobile to manufactured isn't only for image's sake; it represents a new type of home the mobile home has become.
Because of HUD's Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Program, standards have been raised regarding the "construction, design, performance, and installation of manufactured homes to assure their quality, durability, affordability, and safety." And as mentioned, these homes can be quite big. Plus, they're no longer flimsy homes that can be swept away by a minor windstorm; they're more solid now.
Then there's the decor. Fireplaces, open kitchens with islands, stainless steel appliances, recessed porches, luxury-style bathrooms, numerous large windows to let in light, and high ceilings are now associated with manufactured homes.
Some mobile home parks have amenities such as walking paths, swimming pools, pool tables, and exercise equipment. Some are 55-plus communities popular with people who wish to downsize.
What's holding them back?
Sometimes it's the industry, not the product, that gives mobile/manufactured homes a bad reputation. There can be bad customer service, for one. And getting mobile home builders to repair problems can be difficult; the profit is in selling the homes, not repairing them.
In addition, some homes might not sit level and therefore have problems such as leaky windows, floors that creak, and doors that don't shut properly. It's the complaints that people hear about more than the benefits of these homes.
An investment opportunity
So, should you invest in mobile homes or mobile home parks? If you want to buy a mobile home for you or a loved one to live in, there's a good possibility you can find something you like. And because the product is better now than in the "bad old days," people are buying them. As of June 2018, 17.7 million Americans lived in one, and about 70% of people who live in a mobile home own it.
The Millionacres bottom line
If you want to get into the business, you should probably invest in a mobile home park, renting out spaces to people who own a mobile home. This is definitely a market worth looking into.